Euro Apartheid 2012: No traveler is illegal!
Throughout May and June of this year, Warsaw is to become the exhibition center of European apartheid.
During these months, as Euro 2012 fans take in the international atmosphere of the tournament in beer parks specially set up for them around the city, Frontex, headquartered in Warsaw at 1, United Nations Plaza will celebrate its 7th anniversary. For last year’s birthday festivities the agency organized “European Border Guard’s Day”, a networking event with film screenings and presentations of the newest border control technologies.
This May, however, is of particular importance as Euro 2012 will allow Warsaw itself to become a showcase of segregation and discrimination, or the tactics of human selection predicated by market value that European authorities call migration management. What else but their ability to consume and be consumed makes this expected wave of 800,000-1 million not a typhoon greater than any weather predicament warranting Frontex intervention on Lampedusa, but a large group of “newcomers”? In light of the chauvinism of the European authorities to the people seeking refuge during the revolutions of this past year, Euro 2012 is to be a display, ad absurdum, of their lame dictatorial practices: the self-proclaimed referees of democracy present apartheid under the guise of games.
Euro Apartheid in Warsaw
Warsaw and other host cities have been preparing for months. Unsurprisingly, no state of emergency, collective charter flights for deportees or Frontex RABIT teams have been put on alert. Instead, Poland and Ukraine have reached across the Schengen divide to make border crossing a more pleasant experience for newcomers; infrastructure has been improved and special train connections are being set up between tournament cities. In Warsaw, welcome flags already line the streets, colorful flower beds with the tournament logo have been planted around the city, Carlsberg and CocaCola are now sponsoring the bridge across the Vistula river from the city center to the National Stadium, where the opening kick-off is to take place.
An investment greater than total public spending in the city for years to come and the most expensive stadium in the world to date, the National Stadium was in majority constructed by workers without documents, both migrant and internally displaced. Although they have not been invited to enjoy the tournament and officially they never existed, stadium construction and in turn Euro 2012 could not take place without their cheap labor because costs would have been too high.
Construction of the National Stadium also procured other costs that Warsaw authorities have not settled to date. The sprawling stadium complete with parking lots required the liquidation of the former Jarmark Europa, the largest open-air market in Eastern Europe and place of self-employment for both numerous migrant communities and local residents. For those excluded by glamorous shopping centers and luxurious downtown cafes, Jarmark Europa was the all-purpose supply store, cafeteria and town square in one, not omitting the most vibrantly multicultural place in Warsaw. Its closing two years ago unleashed unprecedented police brutality toward migrant vendors, criminalized for selling bootleg goods that dared undermine the commercial order. This violence culminated in the fatal shooting of Maxwell Itoya, a 36 year-old of Nigerian origin, on May 23, 2010. The police murderer responsible has been returned to service, and officially the case remains unresolved. The shooting of Maxwell Itoya coincided with Frontex’s 5th anniversary, which took place on the same day, just across the river.
Frontex and the Polish authorities
For the Polish authorities, the 2011-2012 season has provided a formidable occasion to prove its dedication to free market values and border protection. The Polish EU presidency contributed the expansion of Frontex’s competencies, most notably clearing the legislative path for the creation of a European Border Guard headed by Frontex. Conveniently for public relations weary European leaders, this translates to assuringthat collective expulsions, international witch-hunts and collaborative relationships with tyrant dictators will no longer sully the image of European democracy. Further toward this end, the Polish presidency campaigned for allowing Frontex to purchase its own border monitoring equipment. This new competency will not only allow the agency to establish direct relationships with security corporations, but thanks to new technologies such as the TALOS unmanned vehicle border monitoring system, will enable Frontex to make border protection entirely inhuman. With such developments on the horizon, Frontex has proclaimed a new commitment to human rights surprisingly not by shutting itself down, but by establishing a “Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights” and designating a “Fundamental Rights Officer”. Predictably, these new measures have proven a pretense as Frontex was recently exposed in a report by Human Rights Watch, which found that, the agency violates several human rights by: denying people the right to seek asylum in connection with the breach of the non-refoulement principle and the principle of non-discrimination; by violating the right to leave any country; by violating the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, and also by contravening the EU’s provisions for personal data protection.
For 2012, Frontex plans on expanding its activities beyond the border, thus enacting the new Global Approach to migration. The agency is convinced that real border policing starts not at the border itself but beyond it, through the use of data collection systems and other identity control measures. As human rights are for Frontex only a matter of legitimizing discourse, the agency sees its preventative work beyond the border, like Operation Hera which aimed to stop migrants from West Africa reaching the Canary Island, as saving lives. Frontex’s objective, in a nutshell, is to strike a balance between minimizing the threat of illegality at the border while maximizing the ease and convenience of bona fide travelers. Euro 2012 is an mass event for bona fide travellers. To Euro Apartheid 2012 we say: No Traveler is Illegal!
The Warsaw noborder collective and occupied social center Syrena invites all to a week of actions against Frontex and Euro Apartheid 2012. Throughout the week starting on May 18th we will engage in creative interventions in public space around Warsaw and various other activities, including film screenings, discussions, book presentations and concerts.
Please inform us about your arrival up to the end of April.